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Wyoming's Congressional Delegation Scrambles To Protect The State's Energy Industry


One of Joe Biden's first acts as president was to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline. Wyoming lawmakers, like senior Senator John Barrasso, hated that move and others."The Biden administration, and specifically President Biden, has drawn a target on the back of Wyoming - men and women who worked to provide the energy for this country - and then he pulled the trigger," Barrasso said.

The new administration also paused all oil and gas leases on federal lands. Then the president unveiled his sweeping infrastructure bill.

"The American Jobs Plan will lead to a transformational progress in an effort to tackle climate change with American jobs and American ingenuity, protect our community from billions of dollars of damage from historic superstorms, floods, wildfires, droughts - year after year - by making our infrastructure more secure and resilient, and seizing incredible opportunities for American workers and American farmers and a clean energy future," the president said.

The president hopes to build 500,000 new charging stations for electric cars while also providing tax incentives for people who buy clean, electric vehicles. This isn't a head fake: Biden wants the nation to know he plans to overhaul the American economy, particularly the fossil fuel industry. To Biden and Democrats, the nation's economy has failed most middle- and low-income families.

"I'm proposing a plan for the nation that rewards work, not just rewards wealth. It builds a fairer economy that gives everybody a chance to succeed," President Biden said. "And it's going to create the strongest, most resilient, innovative economy in the world. It's not a plan that tinkers around the edges. It's a once in a generation investment in America."

But Republicans are sounding alarm bells. Senator Barrasso says Biden's dream economy will wreck local Wyoming communities.

"So when Washington says you cannot continue to do what you've done for decades, and use those energy resources, it hurts our country because the energy is not there. It hurts the economy, because those jobs go away. And it hurts our schools and our hospitals because some of the tax revenue that comes in from that energy goes to help support those things in our communities," Barrasso said.

Wyoming Senator Cynthia Lummis agrees that Biden's vision misses the mark.

"It's not all of the above. It's only energy that emits no carbon that they're approaching," Lummis said.

Lummis says the new administration is rushing to embrace a new energy future while neglecting our energy present.

"This is a tremendously worrisome approach to the U.S. need to meet its own energy demands. So we have to be very careful to make sure pipelines can carry fuels for energy," Lummis said. "It's much safer to have them in the ground than it is on trains and trucks. That's something the Biden administration absolutely put the hammer down on and failed to address when they stopped Keystone pipeline."

Lummis says the most troubling thing is that Biden is blocking oil and gas companies from accessing the minerals underneath the soil in Wyoming - especially the 68 percent of the state's minerals estimated to be on federal lands.

"A lot of that is natural gas. Natural gas is the cleanest burning hydrocarbon. And it's ill advised to put the kibosh on natural gas. And there are multiple other concerns I have about their energy approach," Lummis said.

As for Senator Barrasso, he's a Republican leader. He's not just decrying Biden in the media, he's also working to forge relationships with more moderate, energy state Democrats, like a certain West Virginia Senator, in an effort to derail Biden's new energy plan.

"I'm working closely with Joe Manchin of West Virginia, there are a number of House Democrats from Texas, who know the importance of American energy. And they're joining in our effort to try to reverse the band on oil and gas exploration on public lands," Barrasso said.

Still, President Biden isn't backing down. He says it's a new day for American corporations - from Wall Street banks to fossil fuel companies.

"This is not to target those who've made it, not to seek retribution. This is about opening opportunities for everybody else," Biden said. "Here's the truth: We all will do better when we all do well. It's time to build our economy from the bottom up and from the middle out; not the top down. It hadn't worked very well. The economy overall hasn't worked."

Based on Capitol Hill, Matt Laslo is a reporter who has been covering campaigns and every aspect of federal policy since 2006. While he has filed stories for NPR and more than 40 of its affiliates, he has also written for Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, Campaigns and Elections Magazine, The Daily Beast, The Chattanooga Times Free Press, The Guardian, The Omaha World-Herald, VICE News and Washingtonian Magazine.
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